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HFAC and Equality Caucus Urge Continued Inclusion of LGBTQ Concerns in Vice President’s Work in Guatemala

Washington, D.C. – The House Foreign Affairs Committee in partnership with the Congressional LGBT+ Equality Caucus has sent a letter to the Office of the Vice President expressing concern over the situation in Guatemala and encouraging Vice President Harris to continue her inclusive approach as she engages in the region.

“Addressing human rights and rule of law as part of the root causes of out-migration in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is a top priority. I am pleased that Vice President Harris will visit Guatemala and encourage her to meet with local civil society leaders, including LGBTQI human rights defenders who often face multiple forms of discrimination at the intersection of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (NY-05).

“Guatemala, and the neighboring countries of El Salvador and Honduras, are countries of great concern to the Equality Caucus. We are pleased to see renewed attention on the issues impacting LGBTQ+ people in the region. Violence and discrimination, particularly against transgender women, are significant factors in the increased flow of asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle,” said Equality Caucus Chair David N. Cicilline (RI-01). “We are grateful that Vice President Harris is including these issues in her outreach to Guatemala’s leadership and civil society. We hope that this engagement will continue as there is much to be done to make these countries safe for our community. The Caucus stands ready to assist as she tackles this important assignment.”

The text of the letter can be found here and below.

June 4, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Madam Vice President:

We write in advance of your upcoming visit to Guatemala to encourage you to address the violence, discrimination, and extreme economic marginalization facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) persons in Guatemala.  We appreciate that you have addressed these concerns in past meetings and encourage you to raise them again in both your private meetings and public comments to make clear that this epidemic of hate violence will not be tolerated. 

As members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, we are acutely aware of the stark reality facing LGBTQI persons in Guatemala.  While our borders must remain open to those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, we also know that the long-term solution to this challenge must be rooted in in legal reforms that recognize and offer meaningful protections to LGBTQI citizens of Guatemala as well as equal access to economic and educational opportunities.  We consider this to be an urgent human rights imperative and an essential step in reducing dangerous migration flows.

In a recent report entitled “Every Day I Live in Fear,” Human Rights Watch has documented the daily violence and entrenched discrimination that LGBTI individuals face in Guatemala and the failure of local authorities to offer any meaningful protection.  We urge you to raise the following points:

  • There must be legal accountability for public officials who are responsible for or complicit in violence or discrimination against ethnic minorities, LGBTQI persons, women and girls;
  • Legal protections must safeguard LGBTQI individuals in employment, education, housing, health care, and access to goods and services;
  • Transgender individuals must be allowed to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity without unnecessary burdens as both a human right and as a violence mitigation strategy;
  • Hate crimes must be tracked, analyzed, investigated and prosecuted; and
  • National leaders must pledge publicly to protect LGBTQI citizens, recognizing their fundamental dignity and inherent rights.

In addition to your meetings with government officials, we also encourage you to meet with local civil society leaders, including LGBTQI human rights defenders who often face multiple forms of discrimination at the intersection of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity work under hostile conditions to document and respond to these abuses.  Even a short meeting would go a long way in conveying concern and lending both urgency and legitimacy to this work.  We would be pleased to help recommend leaders in the community who would be willing to meet with you to discuss these challenges. We understand that your work in Guatemala is an essential piece of your work in the broader Northern Triangle region and we would be interested in staying in communication with you and your team as you tackle similar issues in the neighboring countries of El Salvador and Honduras, which unfortunately are also hostile environments for LGBTQI people.  

We appreciate your dedication to this important concern and look forward to hearing what more we can do through the Foreign Affairs Committee and the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus to support your efforts.

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